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Northwestern vs. Wisconsin player grades

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You already know what grade Bryant McIntosh received.

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Bryant McIntosh: A

25 points (10-23 FG, 1-2 3PT, 4-4 FT), 7 assists, 2 turnovers, 7 rebounds, 40 minutes

For generations of Northwestern basketball fans, the wish has been clear. The Tournament, the NCAA Tournament, not your NIT, nor your CBI, nor your hollow dreams of Vegas, is what we want.

Bryant McIntosh gave us our dreams back. After nearly losing course in a disastrous loss to Illinois, McIntosh turned in one of the finest games of his career. Although he wasn’t “efficient” (10-23 from the field), he was without doubt the captain of this season-defining win. Whenever Northwestern needed a bucket with its leading scorer out, he was there. After Wisconsin nearly broke Northwestern and took the lead to start the second, McIntosh was there. Whenever Northwestern needed a crisp assist to stay afloat, McIntosh was there.

In his last two games against Wisconsin, McIntosh has 28 and 25 points. It seems that as Pardon is to Nebraska, McIntosh is to Wisconsin.

Vic Law: B

11 points (3-12 FG, 3-6 3PT), 6 rebounds, 1 turnover, 1 assist, 2 steals, 40 minutes, fouled out

This was not Vic Law’s finest game. Other than the three huge threes he hit, he didn’t play particularly well. He committed a bevy of bad fouls (that foul at the end with 23 seconds left...no idea what that was), including a hasty charge on a fastbreak. He also went 0 for 6 on two-point field goals, which would have been worse if McIntosh hadn’t been so productive. But the thing about Law is that even when he struggles with his shot, he can make an enormous impact on a game with his defensive ability. He absolutely shut down Bronson Koenig (1/8 from the field, 2 points) on the perimeter. Overall, it wasn’t Law’s best performance. However, his defense, a couple BIG shots, and the fact that Northwestern won the game is good enough for a solid B.

Sanjay Lumpkin: A-

9 points (4-7 FG, 1-3 3PT), 5 rebounds, 1 block, 1 turnover, 32 minutes

On a wide-open three-point attempt midway through the second half that could’ve stretched Northwestern’s lead to 10, Sanjay Lumpkin missed the basket by a full three feet. That was all pressure. For Lumpkin, who must’ve thought at some point during the game that everything he’d been working for in basketball for the past 3.5 years could be accomplished in one fell swish, that errant three surely must have been the nerves kicking in. The dream was sailing on the horizon, fluttering away.

A few minutes later, he got another opportunity. This time, he made sure it counted, swishing a massive corner three before the student section could even chant “airball.” Crisis averted.

Like some coaches, I don’t like the term role player because it discredits the effort these guys put into every game. Lumpkin was as important to the outcome as any of the other starters, as he was often the second man on Happ in the post or the team’s safety valve on offense. He didn’t play a role as much as he defined how the team would play on the road against a top-10 opponent without its leading scorer. The languid effort from Illinois was nowhere to be found. Lumpkin and Northwestern played ferociously on both ends, as shown by his emphatic dunk to end the game. The results speak for themselves.

Dererk Pardon: A-

11 points (5-7 FG, 1-2 FT), 8 rebounds (4 off, 4 def), 1 assist, 1 turnover, 1 block, 2 steals, 35 minutes

Last week, Dererk Pardon went against Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas of Purdue and got dominated. Then his struggles inexplicably continued against the Fighting Illini’s Maverick Morgan. With Ethan Happ Pardon’s next assignment in the paint, Northwestern’s prospects looked bleak.

Chris Collins realized this, and he modified his gameplan accordingly. Pardon got help consistently when dealing with Happ in the post, and it worked for much of the game. But it wasn’t just the double team, a strategy which only works when the main big man isn’t terrible. Pardon stood his ground on multiple occasions and prevented Happ from playing his game. Happ’s season-long offensive rating is 114.4. Yesterday, his offensive rating was 81.

On offense, Pardon played about as well as you could expect. He was there to clean up misses and was ready whenever McIntosh found him for easy buckets.

Nathan Taphorn: B+

6 points (2-5 FG, 2-4 3PT) 16 minutes

When Scottie Lindsey went down, it was hard not to feel cursed. Northwestern’s best chance to achieve its one program goal seemed to be circling the drain. It was clear that in order for Northwestern to win, guys like Nathan Taphorn would have to step up.

Against Wisconsin, Taphorn hit two threes in the midst of a 16-0 first half run that changed the game. Northwestern needed Taphorn to make threes, and that’s exactly what he did. He misses out on the “A” range because he forced a couple shots in the second half, but he still did what he needed to do.

Isiah Brown: B+

4 points (2-2 FG, 1-2 FT), 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal, 25 minutes

After a tough game against Illinois, Isiah Brown got benched. This was, unquestionably, the correct decision; he provides a scoring punch that the other guys on the second unit cannot. Coming off the bench, Brown was far more focused than he had been at any point this season. He finally played a mature and solid 25 minutes, shooting 100 percent from the floor for the first time in his collegiate career.

Gavin Skelly: D

0 points (0-3 FG, 0-2 3PT), 1 rebound, 1 turnover, 1 block, 10 minutes

Yeah, not one to remember for Skelly, who has really struggled over the last couple weeks. He still had the second-highest usage rate on the team! Also, he needs to start making his open threes if that play is going to be used 2-4 times per game.

But whatever, ROLL DAMN ‘CATS!

Barret Benson: INC

1 rebound, 1 assist, 3 minutes

He played three minutes.